Plastic free. Zero waste. Sustainable living. Saying no to fast fashion and yes to pre-loved clothes. Wherever you currently stand on the journey to creating a more sustainable, planet-friendly lifestyle for you and your family, it’s fair to say that our world’s environmental problems have opened the floodgates to greenwashing – where large corporations make it seem like they’re doing the right thing, but in reality they’re simply employing clever (and expensive) marketing tactics to make us buy more of their products by appearing more environmentally friendly than they actually are.
As consumers, we lead such busy lives that we often don’t take the time to look beyond the misleading marketing campaigns to understand the bigger picture.
Take tree-planting for instance. It’s incredible that so many companies now ‘plant a tree’ for every purchase you make. But the harsh reality is that worldwide, we’re cutting down mature trees and whole sections of forests at such a fast rate that we may never catch up. Mature trees are an important part of the global warming equation because they take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their branches, trunks, foliage and roots. When mature forests are cut down (like in logging industries and clearing space for cattle and soy production), their stored carbon is released in huge quantities which has a similar effect to the burning of fossil fuels. Ideally, we need to stop cutting down forests and trees at this dangerous rate, while continuing to plant a diverse selection of native trees.
In a bid to swap plastic for paper or cardboard alternatives, we’ve ended up mass producing items that have a far shorter life and may also negatively affect the environment. Take paper straws for example. A few years ago, millions of people were propelled into action after seeing the distressing video of a beautiful large turtle with a plastic straw wedged deep inside its nose (proboscis). Paper alternatives quickly became popular but as they go soggy so quickly, they’re useless for more than one drink and may not be recyclable in your area. When you stop to consider the whole timeline involved in creating a paper straw – everything from the day the tree is planted to the day the straw lands in your drink – it’s possible that a couple of decades will have passed!
The answer lies not just in producing more environmentally friendly alternatives, but in switching our whole mindset away from consumerism and towards a more sustainable life – even if that isn’t pretty and colour co-ordinated.
The sustainability and zero waste movements in the online space are very much geared towards consumerism and beauty. They’re designed to make us want to make our homes look just as fantastic as their images. Every day, thousands of photos are uploaded to sites like Pinterest and Instagram that reinforce an ideal that in order to be doing sustainability right, you have to buy a perfectly curated set of storage solutions, kitchen jars and stationery items. Now, there’s nothing wrong with buying new items to support your long-term goals to reduce waste, in fact as I write this, I’ve just upgraded my 4 year-old passata jars for larger 2kg Kilner jars and swapped my old plastic soap dispenser for a pretty amber glass one with a matt black pump. It now makes me smile every time I walk into the kitchen! But my point is, that you don’t have to buy new items or make sure everything is tastefully co-ordinated.
True sustainability is perfect in its imperfections.
Veganism is another area where many people feel that because they aren’t ready or willing to give up everything a vegan gives up, that perhaps it’s not worth trying. But remember:
Anything done imperfectly has more impact than nothing done perfectly!
As consumers, the future of the planet rests on our shoulders. How and where we spend our money is important. And it’s crucial that we spend our money in a way that feels aligned to our values.
So many of us grow up adopting our parents’ beliefs and values as our own. Or maybe the beliefs and values of our culture, our country, our race. But you’re a free-thinking human being who has the ability to adapt and evolve and create a whole new life based on who you are today and who you want to become in the future.
It’s time to reconnect to YOU.
To sit and reflect on who you are, what you want and how you will make that happen.
To consider your hopes and dreams, your beliefs and your values.
To live life on your terms.
And, most importantly, to stop judging others for their choices, even if they aren’t in alignment with yours. Each one of us is doing the best we can, in this moment, with the resources, knowledge and life experience we have.
**This article was first published in The Jersey Life Magazine in the Late Summer 2022 edition.**